Is Shanghai really more fashionable than Hong Kong?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 3:55am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 February, 2014, 3:55am

What is Asia's fashion capital? That depends on who you ask and what they think is fashionable, cool or trendy. A survey that scours the media for buzzwords has ranked Shanghai at the top, ousting Hong Kong. There are those who scratch their heads in wonder, others who nod in agreement; such matters are, after all, in the eyes of the beholder.

US firm Global Language Monitor tracked 250,000 media outlets last year to come up with its international list, which ranked New York at the top ahead of Paris and London. How often key words were used and in what context were traced to determine which cities were the most fashion-conscious. Shanghai, the commercial capital of the world's most-watched nation, was bound to fare well in a year in which mainland China's economy remained strong against a lacklustre global performance. It ranked at 10th, with Tokyo at 11, Singapore 19th and Hong Kong at 20, down 12 places from 2012.

Counting the number of times Shanghai is paired with words like Prada and Gucci certainly gives an indication of the vibrancy of the city's luxury goods sector. That it is one of the most populous cities in the world also helps; rising mainland wealth, a fondness of citizens for flashiness and a booming economy draw ever-greater numbers of high-end brands. Whether this means Shanghainese are better dressed and more fashionable than Hongkongers is a matter of debate, though. Being able to splurge on fancy or expensive items is no indicator in itself of good taste or being well-dressed.

Shanghai is arguably a more exciting city than Hong Kong to visit. There are without doubt more business opportunities for the world's luxury-goods makers in its shopping districts than in high-rent Hong Kong. But determining how fashionable a city is takes more than computer software that analyses published words and phrases. People with a keen eye, a sense of style and an idea of what is trend-setting are better qualified - and even then, the conclusion is open to debate.